By Arturo R. García
As Black History Month gets underway, a particular piece of history has attracted attention after being posted online.
The letter, dated Aug. 7 1865, was originally published in the New York Daily Tribune before being reprinted last month in The Freedmen’s Book, a free collection of letters produced as part of Project Gutenberg for public consumption. The Tribune, of course, was also the newspaper that first published Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents of A Slave Girl in serialized form, including this entry from 1963:
My mother was held as property by a maiden lady; when she marries, my younger sister was in her fourteenth year, whom they took into the family. She was as gentle as she was beautiful. Innocent and guileless child, the light of our desolate hearth! But oh, my heart bleeds to tell you of the misery and degradation she was forced to suffer in slavery. The monster who owned her had no humanity in his soul. The most sincere affection that his heart was capable of, could not make him faithful to his beautiful and wealthy bride the short time of three months, but every stratagem was used to seduce my sister. Mortified and tormented beyond endurance, this child came and threw herself on her mother’s bosom, the only place where she could seek refuge from her persecutor; and yet she could not protect her child that she bore into the world. On that bosom with bitter tears she told her troubles, and entreated her mother to save her.
And oh, Christian mothers! you that have daughters of your own, can you think of your sable sisters without offering a prayer to that God who created all in their behalf! My poor mother, naturally high-spirited, smarting under what she considered as the wrongs and outrages which her child had to bear, sought her master, entreating him to spare her child. Nothing could exceed his rage at this what he called impertinence. My mother was dragged to jail, there remained twenty-five days, with Negro traders to come in as they liked to examine her, as she was offered for sale. My sister was told that she must yield, or never expect to see her mother again.
Anderson’s letter to his former master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, resurfaced again Monday when it was posted on Letters of Note, an archival site that had already garnered attention from the likes of GQ Magazine in the past. And in the past 48 hours, the letter’s been mentioned on Yahoo, BoingBoing–which reported that both the Colonel and Jourdan’s existences had been confirmed–and other outlets.
Courtesy of The Freedmen’s Book, Jourdon Anderson’s letter is under the cut, in its entirety.